All posts by Aloysius Vi

Radio Without Money Episode 8: Everybody Hates Donald and Why Roy Moore Will Win (Oops! and Hooray!)

everybody hates trump

In a break from the radio silence from Writers Without Money, we return with our first content in over a month, and that’s the first new episode of Radio Without Money, the official podcast, in nearly nine months, fittingly recorded eight weeks ago (ugh). And, if we’re lucky, perhaps even the missing seventh episode will turn up one of these days! In a meeting more rare than a believable Donald Trump lie, Ross Snider, Daniel Levine, and Aloysius VI assemble once again, as Voltron or the Avengers might, to discuss Trump, the Russia investigation, incompetence and the DNC, the Franken resignation, NIMBYism, privacy, rifle madness, Nazis, the Forever War, public impact on policy, and the then-forthcoming Roy Moore/Doug Jones election.

Podcast recorded Sunday, December 10th through Monday, December 11th, 2017.

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You God Damn Millennials are Killing All of America’s Shittiest Businesses

fabsofNot pictured in foreground: Anything that actually does anything even remotely beneficial for your laundry.

Earlier this evening, Comrade Levine helped ease the pain by sharing this article to his Facebook wall, an otherwise routine piece of hysteria about Those Damn Millennials and all of the ways in which we are unacceptably changing society. Strangely, most of these articles seem to limit the purview of their juvenoia purely to the consumer realm, and this Business Insider shit show is no exception; it surpasses other articles waxing idiotic about The Kids These Days only in its wide assemblage of consumer examples.

Here are the industries this article says are failing because of disinterest from millennials, along with a brief overview of why I think these industries suck, for I have no job, no current classes, and nothing better to do with my time than try to waste that of others. My hypothesis: Maybe we’d stop murdering all of their beloved businesses if all of their beloved businesses weren’t total garbage.

Casual dining chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee’s: The food at these places is worse for you than fast food and is every bit as factory-cooked-and-frozen halfway across the country and microwaved in the “restaurant” as fast food. (I’ll have the #WordSalad as an appetizer, thank you.) Instead of getting your food at a dystopian counter in what feels like a mess hall, you are served at a sticky table in poorly-lit, beer-reeking, butt rock-blasting shithole with decor furnished by the nearest bottom-shelf antiques shop.

Beer: Tastes like dirty laundry smells, doesn’t get you drunk if you can hold your liquor. Pass.

Napkins: A napkin is cloth and you launder it. These are shitty little pieces of miserably flimsy paper that no sensible person should use in a world where paper towels are just as readily available.

“Breastaurant” chains like Hooters: When your business is failing, whatever you do, do not look into the politics of your youngest target demographic. That would not be rational in the least.

Cereal: I mean, I never cared for the stuff much, probably haven’t had a bowl in over a year. Not having it because you have to clean things afterward is asinine, though. Heartless Industry 1, Millennials 9,682.

Golf: Ah, yes, I’ll just have my driver take me and my caddy over to the cart rental in the Rolls Royce and we’ll cease our murder of this industry forthwith!

Motorcycles: Loud, obnoxious, dangerous, famously associated with violent criminals, horribly bigoted ones in particular. SEE: “Breastaurant” entry.

Homeownership: Hahahahahahahahaha are you fucking kidding me?

Yogurt: Anyone’s guess is as good as mine on this one.

Bars of soap: And I quote, “Almost half (48%) of all US consumers believe bar soaps are covered in germs after use, a feeling that is particularly strong among consumers aged 18-24 (60%), as opposed to just 31% of older consumers aged 65-plus.” Who are we, Howard fucking Hughes? Heartless Industry 2, Millennials 9,685. At least they didn’t try to spin this one to imply that we’re unwashed.

Diamonds: SEE: “Breastaurant” entry again. Literally involves the dismembering of small children and vicious wars.

Fabric softener: “According to Downy maker Procter & Gamble’s head of global fabric care, millennials ‘don’t even know what the product is for.'” Stupid millennials, not knowing what a pointless product is for. There’s an incredibly apt metaphor in here somewhere, but I’m too busy looking at my smartphone to notice.

Banks: I mean, I’m pretty sure I haven’t heard about millennials stuffing their cash in the mattress en masse, but perhaps this includes business lost to people who are joining credit unions that won’t gamble with their deposited money and nickel-and-dime them with fees and charges. Pah! Credit unions! Why would anybody ever join such a foolish thing?

Department stores like Macy’s and Sears: “Who could possibly want to order goods directly to their door?” ponders industry giants who made themselves into what they are by aggressively circulating mail-order catalogs. Why would I rifle through wrinkled clothes and struggle with store employees who are paid so little that it would come off as offensively desperate if they were helpful?

Designer handbags: Forget it, it’s Chinatown! If you need a magnifying glass to tell that a mainly-cosmetic item is counterfeit, then it is, for all intents and purposes, not counterfeit.

Home-improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s: SEE: “Department stores.”

Football: I won’t go into it at length here, but having read a shit-ton in the last year about the state of football’s popularity, I can say with confidence that this entry is entirely bullshit. Surely they could lament something more specific about football and of which there is more evidence of the uselessness of millennials, like not buying jerseys that cost over a hundred dollars or something.

Oil: SEE: “Breastaruants,” yet again. Also smells bad. Is hard to clean off of plants, wildlife, and out of earth and water. Continued combustion will literally make the Earth uninhabitable for humans. Procurement is ecologically harmful as well. Should be conserved as it is otherwise needed for plastics, of which advancing technology and growing populations will presumably only increase demand for.

I find it curious that all of the articles like this use an active word like “killing” to describe a trend which is defined by a lack of the relevant parties doing anything at all, in this case, engaging with these various businesses. Why, oh why, won’t the best-educated generation in human history, which is also simultaneously the worst-paid generation in the last century or so of American history, exchange money they don’t have for goods and services that make them sick, exploit others, and/or are mainly pompous, ostentatious displays of consumerism?

How can anybody seriously wring their hands in confusion at what is happening here? Businesses that don’t sell things people want aren’t logically supposed to exist in the free market, right? Well, then.

Fuck ’em all.

Radio Without Money Episode 6: Donnie Loves Chachi and God Damn Steam

Donny Loves Chachi

After a long layover, Radio Without Money, the official podcast, returns as Aloysius VI welcomes Daniel Levine back from his brief layover in a re-education camp. We discuss the fire and the world currently on it, the firing of FBI Director James Comey, leftist opposition to the idea of the existence of any kind of collusion between Donald Trump and the Russian government, the ever-closing walls that surround President Donald Trump, and some other stuff too probably, who knows?

Podcast recorded Thursday, May 11th through Friday, March 12th, 2017.

<-Check out the last episode!

Check out the next episode!->

Radio Without Money Episode 5: Brevity Is the Soul of Wit

brevity is the soul of wit

In this exceptionally brief (for us!) episode of Radio Without Money, the official podcast, Ross Snider and Aloysius VI try to put lipstick on a pig by discussing Daniel Levine’s disappearance, user analytics, the budget, Wikipedia, propaganda, Facebook’s new fact-check alerts and the conflation of “neutrality” with “objectivity,” journalism in general, the aborted Republican health care legislation, and the conflation of neoliberalism with traditional, progressive liberalism.

Podcast recorded Thursday, March 23rd through Friday, March 24th, 2017.

<-Check out the last episode!

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Notes from a Millennial: In Defense of Decency

Note: This article refers to “millennials” repeatedly. While the name for any generation is always going to be broad terminology, there are many differing opinions on who exactly is a “millennial.” The following article presumes them to be Americans born between 1982 and 2004, as per the more common definition of “millennial,” but again, this terminology is loose and should not be considered definitive, even within the context of this article.

Second Note: I’m not going to even bother addressing the hypocrisy of many of the criticisms against millennials in this article. There are matters re: millennials that I desired to address, and I think the aforementioned hypocrisy is self-evident (and if it isn’t, give some consideration to the fragile emotional constitution of the Tyler Durden-idolizing man-children who first spread “snowflake” as an insult).

“Forced worship stinks in the nostrils of God.”

 – Roger Williams (1603-83 C.E.), Founder of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (1636-776 C.E.)

A state religion is nothing out of the ordinary in human history, and even if a nation does not have a state religion de jure, they will almost certainly have one in practice. This applies even to supposedly secular societies, even the society administered to by the “world’s first secular government.” In America, however, a different worship took root: in a land made secular in order to accommodate all the religious beliefs of its populace, many of them religious pilgrims, a unified religion came to be understood by Americans, one defined by indulgences specifically proscribed against by their “true” faiths. Golden calves were erected; divinity was invoked to justify imperialist expansion into the western parts of Northern America; Americans worked on Sundays, seeking to satiate the capitalist god they held before their true gods; we coveted our neighbors’ goods. The ’80s came and the Reagan gang took power, and a predisposition in American culture toward crude materialism became a crass classism, and pretensions that the ideology that “anyone can make in America!” was meant to be uplifting were increasingly dropped in favor of a reading of social Darwinism into that same ideology, and beyond that, even mainstream apologism for eugenics.

For a country that prides itself on being so exhaustingly Christian, America’s culture is markedly shaped by a sternly resolute contempt for the poor. And so we face the timeless panic about The Kids These Days, who, to establishment culture’s dismay, are not ones to regularly associate themselves with organized religion, systemically racist institutions, or patriarchal politics, and who by overwhelming margins are rejecting capitalism and professing an admiration for anything ranging from a European-style mix of capitalism and socialism (more common) to full-blown communism (less common, though substantially more common than in prior generations). America watches in horror as the young turn to the writings of Karl Marx, even though America never even understood what Marxism is. The nation shields its eyes, shuddering to watch the carnage of a generation of Americans who believe god is dead or never existed, and simultaneously wagging a finger at them for wanting to help those who cannot help themselves, the central tenant of the belief system laid down by their own god; the very same whose rejection they bemoan. Millennials have rejected not just the mainstream religions from which the god-fearing populace picks and chooses their beliefs, they have, more problematically to the American establishment, also rejected the false gods of consumerism and the accompanying notion of “ethical consumption.”

There are regular articles which trot out polls detailing how millennials are incredibly socialist and really hate capitalism, but also millennials don’t understand what socialism is and also like aspects of capitalism. We get it, man. You want us to think millennials are dopey. They don’t even know what Betamax was; how ignorant! Except your polls don’t offer the option of a mixed system, and typically, when you look at the other generations polled, they know even less about what any of the political systems actually are. So the narrative is that millennials are vapid, ignorant, self-obsessed children in adult bodies, except apparently everybody else is even more vapid and ignorant. If millennials are self-obsessed, our adoption of the baffling insult “social justice warrior” as a golem for our political beliefs is, at the least, a strange way of expressing self-obsession. Millennial-bashers, blind to the juvenoia that they suffer like every generation before them, will look for the opening here and say that the millennial desire to support those who are disregarded is out of a selfish need for self-affirmation, the product of a culture where losers get trophies. Of course, it was these same critics giving those trophies who created that culture (if participation ribbons even had a significant impact on culture at all, which seems dubious), but this paradoxical critique of millennials’ competitiveness has already been hashed out millions if not billions of times on the internet, and at any rate, even if self-affirmation is the objective, if the means to that end are the establishment of a compassionate society, who even gives a fuck?

zizek would prefer not to
Pictured: Millennial expressing feelings on participation in capitalism.

The last of the so-called “millennials” will cast their first ballots in elections in 2022, and you older generations (and self-hating millennials; don’t worry, we won’t forget you when the guillotine blades are being waxed) are probably praying for a reprieve, but you’re not going to get it. Generation Z, our little brothers and sisters and our sons and daughters and nieces and nephews, are even further left, and they will cut you if you don’t respect which gendered pronouns someone wants to be referred to with. As someone who idled away many a teenage afternoon listening to the likes of George Carlin, Bill Hicks, Chris Rock, etc., I know I’m supposed be all bent out of shape about this for some reason or another, but none of those reasons really resonate with me. I get that people like to be edgy, but there’s two types of edge: the edge that makes you uneasy because the government might try to censor you, or corporations might try to use their leverage against you, and the edge that makes you uneasy because you know what’s being said is harmful to someone. One is punching up, one is punching down. When Lenny Bruce used racial slurs, he was demonstrating the ghastly language that could be used in the presence of police offers in attendance at his comedy shows, ostensibly to put a stop to “profane speech” that might come out of Bruce’s mouth. Bruce could say “nigger” and “kike” all he liked, but the second he used a Yiddish word for cock, the handcuffs came out and flexed the power of what truly was then a “nanny state.” That, state-enforced regulation of speech, is “political correctness run amok.” Society responding as it will to ignorance is not. Millennial culture’s greatest crime is desiring that those with their hands upon the levers of power be punched at as opposed to those crushed by the gears those levers operate. That doesn’t make it wrong to laugh at a joke that punches down; laughter is mainly involuntary, and can be triggered by surprise or the release of tension just as easily as by genuine humor. But is there impetus upon the speaker not to offend?

Jerry Seinfeld moaned that he won’t play colleges anymore because they’re too politically correct. Really? What jokes is Jerry Fucking Seinfeld doing that are going to cause him to be driven off of a college campus like a philistine, and if his act does actually reveal him to be a philistine, why should I object when a bunch of arts and humanities majors, whose money paid for the privilege of him speaking before them, tell him to shut the fuck up? In short, no, there is no impetus upon the speaker not to offend. But there’s also no impetus upon the audience to listen, or not to yell at him or not walk out, or even give him a platform to speak from in the future. Just as there’s no impetus for comedy club owners in multicultural population centers to book a comedian who screams racial slurs and death threats at black patrons. Free market, amirite motherfuckers?

big lebowski assholes
“Dude, ‘Chinaman’ is not the preferred nomenclature. ‘Asian-American,’ please.”

The final primary line of attack against the culture of millennials seems to be that their concerns are petty, and that while this makes them obnoxious, and possibly dangerously inert to the whims of society as a whole, their political capital is wasted on things like the aforementioned gendered pronouns, and they are essentially helpless to impart real change upon the world. This is a highly flawed reading of the situation. To my specific example, having society respect your desire to be referred to as a man or a woman specifically might not seem like a big deal, but if you were transgender, you would probably think that it’s a pretty big fucking deal. The fact that you perceive the group concerned as ancillary suggests that majority rule justifies bigotry against minorities, and forgets that all of the groups that you consider “ancillary” combine to form an incredibly large segment of society. Unconsciously, you reveal an “us or them” division in your social ethos that ultimately only distinguishes in a coherent way the difference between the majority and everyone else. As to the view of millennials being doomed to ineffectuality, the irony is that those holding this opinion are doomed to political and social obsolescence by it. No one can deny that American culture is undergoing an upheaval, and anyone who denies that the so-called “P. C. Culture” of the millennials is one of the two major adversaries is fooling themselves. None of this is to say that millennials are without opposition; there is, of course, the other side, the people who went to Trump rallies (but perhaps not the economically-disenfranchised who didn’t but voted for him). But the fact of the matter is, American culture is seeing a wholesale rejection of its ingrained norms, customs, and mythology, and the “social justice warriors” are one of the two main groups fighting that battle. To consider millennials ineffectual is laughably obtuse, and, perhaps worse, deliberately ignorant. If anything, millennials are the ones who should be cocky, as thirty years from now you will be dead, and they will hold most of the seats in Congress. Burying your head in the sand has never been considered a wise tactic, and certainly, to discount the scope of a major social force dooms those who do so to irrelevancy.

I couldn’t be any happier with that.

Radio Without Money Episode 4: Disappearances and Technical Difficulties


Behold! The fourth and possibly mightiest of the Radio Without Money episodes.

In this week’s episode of Radio Without Money, Daniel Levine, Ross Snider, and Aloysius VI discuss the Anthropocene, climate change, the mid-episode purge of Daniel Levine from Radio Without Money, North Korea’s pursuit of a nuclear triad, the nature of protectionism, and lots more! Stay tuned all the way until the end to learn the shocking finale!

Podcast recorded Monday, March 6th, 2017.

<-Check out the last episode!

Check out the next episode!->

America, We Hardly Knew Ye

I’ve had this article in the pipeline for the last couple of weeks now. I’m not sure what it is about it, exactly, that I remain unhappy with; perhaps I’m just unhappy to have been reduced to this sort of tone. At any rate, I have many more thoughts on the election and what’s come of it, particularly on Hillary Clinton, that hopefully I’ll be able to articulate to you at some later date. For now, though, Inauguration Day is tomorrow, and it’s time for this article to go up, ready or not.

“Truly, they were as gods who built this place!”
– Bender, examining the ruins of a 20th Century New York Pizzeria, “Futurama”

Negative 17 days into the Trump presidency, the brain drain had already begun. American students are applying to Canadian universities in record numbers, which, while predictable, demonstrates that American students are poorly educated on the topics of nuclear strike targets and of westerlies and trade winds. In the now-inevitable event of a nuclear exchange, pretty much anywhere in the northern hemisphere is the last place you’d want to be. Regardless of who were to launch first (assuming the hostile actor is America or Russia, but let’s be honest: we all know who we’re worried about here), all nuclear-capable nations will likely have fired off most of their arsenals before a single bomb landed. The targets of American bombs would be cities in Russia and, in all probability, China, while the targets of Russian (and possibly Chinese) bombs would be cities in America and in nuclear-capable countries allied with America, mainly those in Western Europe. From America, winds would carry the radioactive nuclear fallout into Canada, and the surfeit of fallout in North America and Eurasia would result in nuclear winter across the northern hemisphere, subjecting the survivors there to widespread crop failure. In unrelated news, Australia has greatly expanded their Working Holiday Visa program.

It took but mere moments for the post-election narrative of exactly what the hell had just happened to emerge. The right wing, tired of years of contempt and ostracization from the left–which they were definitely, never, ever, EVER, even maybe just once, guilty of themselves–came out in force to elect the most contemptible supervillain reality saw fit to cast upon us. Of course, there’s an obvious reason that this is immediately bullshit: Trump, taking advantage of a system which was designed to give states that permitted slavery extra representation beyond that of their voting citizens, managed to win an election despite losing the popular vote by nearly three million ballots. And how fitting is it, really, that the would-be American Mussolini should rise to power on the shoulders of a bizarre, antebellum voting mechanism with a uniquely racist history?

Those opposed to Trump are now routinely chastised in the media–often by others also opposed to Trump–for having a “smug superiority” to rural voters. The rise of Trump, we’re told, is because rural voters resent the left calling them racist when they do racist things, or sexist when they do sexist things. More laughably, it’s because of the attention cities receive, as if putting a majority of your attention on the places where a majority of your citizens and infrastructure are is just bananas (never mind that this isn’t actually where the U.S. budget is going). But of course, to get them to understand what bigoted things are when they say or do them is apparently folly. On the topic of People Who Hate Trump giving shit to Other People Who Hate Trump, this month’s most unbearable episode brings us the usually-astute Anthony Bourdain waxing idiotic about why the election was lost.

“The utter contempt with which privileged Eastern liberals such as myself discuss red-state, gun-country, working-class America as ridiculous and morons and rubes is largely responsible for the upswell of rage and contempt and desire to pull down the temple that we’re seeing now.

“I’ve spent a lot of time in gun-country, God-fearing America. There are a hell of a lot of nice people out there, who are doing what everyone else in this world is trying to do: the best they can to get by, and take care of themselves and the people they love. When we deny them their basic humanity and legitimacy of their views, however different they may be than ours, when we mock them at every turn, and treat them with contempt, we do no one any good.”

Ah, so now we understand. We were the dicks this whole time for rejecting the notions of prejudice and hatred. The people who lament safe spaces in colleges and political correctness in society had their feelings hurt because people told them their racist jokes were racist. We have denied them their basic humanity! They’re nice people out there, in “gun-country,” in “God-fearing America.” Nice people advocate for sexual assault and xenophobia. It’s what all the nice people are doing! And to hell with you if you think you’re better than them because of it. A disposition which, again, they would never have. Right?

In short, the society rejected their bigoted bullying and intimidation, and so they elected a literal bully. The closest we came to racial understanding this year was Glenn Beck ranting about pie. Now, enough about the people who reject U. S. intelligence on the election but got tricked by Colin Powell and a vial of baking soda. Now I am going to talk shit about Hillary Clinton, and the real reason why the Democrats lost the election.

Hillary Clinton is nothing. Do you understand that? Hillary Clinton did not understand this. Hillary Clinton thought that having the most milquetoast, status quo policy positions would place her as a safe alternative against lunacy. Hillary Clinton was wrong, and–and this part is key, now–Bernie Sanders supporters were right. An election is not something that is won by popular opinion, as mandatory voting is not something that exists in America. An election is won with mobilization. And yes, Donald Trump mobilized many supporters on racism. But he gained even more when he hit Hillary on the banks, and her having been in the Obama Administration–yes, Democrats, you’re the establishment when you’re in charge–and her being investigated by the FBI, and her husband meeting with the U. S. Attorney General while she was being investigated, and all of this stupid, typical, smarmy politician bullshit that raises all kinds of red flags for corruption and inauthenticity. And to combat this barrage of credibility-damaging evidence, Hillary Clinton offered nothing. No particular plan, like Build A Wall, or Universal College Tuition, or Medicaid For All, that she was pushing, no grand vision that people could rally around. And, to put a fine point upon her carefully-cultivated image of Generic Politician Robot, she used electioneering software that told her not to even visit Wisconsin or Michigan, the latter of which she lost to Sanders in the primaries despite the same software telling her she had a comfortable lead then, as well. Instead of canvassing anywhere and everywhere there could be a potential Hillary voter, she went to high-stakes fundraising dinner after high-stakes fundraising dinner, determined to instill in the voters the knowledge that she would be a wholly-owned subsidiary of the gremlins pumping money into her coffers.

Unlike Bernie Sanders, however, a comfortable lead over Donald Trump is not something Hillary Clinton ever possessed, and for that Hillary Clinton is my biggest loser of 2016. Hillary Clinton gambled this country away trying to calculate her way toward being a more efficient politician. If elections were poker hands, Hillary Clinton put America on the table while holding a hand full of those cards that explain the rules for other card games. I started this article with a description of what happens when people fire lots of nuclear weapons at one another. You probably already understand this already as Mutually Assured Destruction. You understand this. I understand this. Vladimir Putin understands this. I voted for Hillary Clinton because she understands this. Donald Trump does not understand this. Donald Trump has the temperament of a small child. This is a problem. And Hillary Clinton’s incompetence gave you this problem.

Responsibility for this problem does not lie solely with Hillary Clinton, however, but also with the Democratic National Committee. They just couldn’t stand it, could they? With the barbarians at the gates, a true, progressive nominee for President, one who was mobilizing the democratically-advantageous younger generations to campaign and rally for him. They couldn’t handle it. Every fiber in their being yearns to be the establishment. Barney Frank was questioned during the primaries on Bernie Sanders’s small-donor fundraising and whether or not the Democratic Party should do that. He cautioned against “unilateral disarmament” and countered with a question of his own: “Do you think it would really be better for liberals, regulators, if all the money from the banks went to Republicans, as opposed to just 80 percent?”

Well, Barney, if I was told I was going to fight a guy, and that he’d be paid four times what I’d be paid, I’d have a pretty good idea that I was being paid to lose. Barney Frank, plainly, does not understand this. Hillary Clinton did not understand this. Debbie Wasserman Schultz wouldn’t understand this if it fell out of the sky, hit her on her head, and told her it was from Cuba and wanted asylum. The Democrats as a whole do not understand this.

That is why they fail.

Spectre (2015)

Spectre begins with a lovely tracking shot through a Day of the Dead festival in Mexico City that has us follow masked figures through the pageantry, up some steps, up an elevator, through a hotel room (where one of the masked figures turns out to be none other than James Bond), and then across a series of rooftops before quickly establishing itself as a Bond film with a sequence of ludicrous c.g.i. pandemonium. This leads into a fairly spectacular scene in a helicopter (which dances manically over a suspiciously-not-fleeing Day of the Dead crowd) that cloaks whatever digital imagery is in it fairly nicely, and then we find ourselves in the new M’s (Ralph Fiennes, returning from succeeding Judi Dench in Skyfall) office, where Bond (Daniel Craig, for the fourth and presumably last time) is being berated for his Mexico City shenanigans, laughably carried out without permission. For some reason, this doesn’t get Bond arrested six times before he can say “Martini,” but it does get him injected with “smart blood” by Q (Ben Whishaw, also returning from Skyfall), nanomachines allowing MI6 to track him anywhere in the world (even though the entire point of this scene is specifically seeing Bond getting Q to subvert this smart blood tracking system). Bond also steals a car Q’s working on for 009, which doesn’t raise any red flags with MI6, but does lead to an amusing moment where Bond attempts to engage the custom “Atmosphere” switch in the car during a chase only for a readout to inform him that music customized for 009 has been enabled, which then serenades him. This is only Q’s second film since the quasi-reboot of the Bond movies with Casino Royale, and though a scene involving a plane in Spectre approaches Pierce Brosnan Bond-levels of inanity, we have yet for the new Q to provide Bond with anything really cool and wacky. That’s the perfect Q invention in these movies: something silly that nonetheless serves some kind of purpose, like a gun in one of those pens where the ink forms the lady on the pen’s bathing suit.

I would continue synopsizing, but this is about all I really care to recall with vivid detail. Bond then goes to Rome to antagonize and bang, apparently in that order, the widow (Monica Bellucci) of one of the crime bosses he was chasing in Mexico City, whom he also saves from assassination by her bodyguards, blah blah blah, then he has to go to another country, blah blah blah, he has people working on the inside for him and gets a hold of a ring all the people in this crime organization wear, so on and so forth, it’s all a rub, really. His hijinks in Rome lead to an interesting-but-overblown scene where Bond attends the crime organization’s meeting and meets with the villain (Christoph Waltz, who gets absolutely wasted by this film), who’ll later be revealed to be a past Bond villain (this film is a resuscitation of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. as a plot point, after all). The film boils down to having two villains operating on separate levels who (spoiler alert) turn out to be working toward the same end. At MI6, the existence of the entire department is threatened by C (Andrew Scott), the head of the privately-backed Joint Intelligence Service, an agency looking to form a nine-country surveillance outfit dubbed “Nine Eyes” (I will refer enthusiasts of both Orwell and of our Orwellian world to the real multi-nation intelligence-gathering agency Five Eyes, some of whose activities were leaked by Edward Snowden). “Nine Eyes,” naturally, will put the fabled Double-Oh program out of commission in favor of indiscriminate drone bombings. The Bond franchise reflects on surveillance and geopolitics for nine-tenths of a second while M laments the situation and an action-weary audience wonders if politically-aware emotional heft will ever be backdoored into a Bond movie in any substantive way. Here, it just feels like they’re hitting on the “morally-ambiguous surveillance trope” increasingly common to spy movies, particularly since the Bourne movies put the emphasis on the information-gathering element of intelligence work.

The movie manages to work in a recurring villain (Jesper Christensen) from throughout the Daniel Craig movies, whose appearance I greeted with a heavy sigh and a glance at my watch. Why is every stupid action movie now in the area of 150 minutes, and why do I always look at the time less than halfway through? Oh yeah. And Dave Bautista, better known as the wrestler Batista, whose name in the film is Dr. Hinx but who seems to be playing Oddjob-sans-hat or something, does a nice job smashing scenery. This is really where the Bond movies have come the furthest: all the smashed scenery seems incredibly real nowadays, whereas in the past it tended to look like the cheap pressboard paneling we knew it really was.

All in all, Nine Eyes turns out to be just the sort of thing that Spectre, a criminal organization with its own wide-ranging surveillance apparatus, will benefit from as well, and the plots sort of come together. That said, Spectre by no means earns its runtime, and by the end feels like it’s been bloated by an emphasis on pre-designed set pieces with a script written around them. It’s somewhat fun, but fuck is it long, and it feels wrong that the Daniel Craig series of films will come to an end with what feels very much like a modern Roger Moore Bond: silly-but-globetrotting, spectacular-but-preposterous, and wide in scope but narrow in vision. As alluded to earlier, I half-expected Pierce Brosnan to emerge from a plane after it crashed and skied its way down a snowy mountainside in pursuit of a van and its hostage. Yes, the new Bond series ultimately got too over-the-top and too silly, but at least they took their time getting there. Consider what a triumph it is for the Bond films to even be able to criticize them in such a way; they set out to create more accessible stories of spycraft with the Craig series and succeeded for a good three films. Now that we’re back to wackiness, I want to see Idris Alba dangling out of a flying BMW next movie.

“Smart Power”

I did not grow up in a war-torn nation, fearful of tanks or planes or soldiers. All of that was–and still is, pretty much exclusively–something I see only in movies and on the news. The closest I’ve ever come to feeling like I live in a war zone was living in New York on Nine Eleven, and even shortly thereafter the apparent suicidal ambition with which those attacks were carried out–with the expressly-stated purpose of drawing the United States into a Soviet-esque empire-bankrupting war in the Middle East–was hard to differentiate thematically from the casualties of U.S. foreign policy throughout the last seventy years. For some, the sense of war on September 11th, 2001 was very real, but for most, it was just another event happening inside the idiot box, distinguishable only by the sense that, this time, you were supposed to put a flag out on the lawn or something. Despite these things–despite my having never truly felt an iota of what it is to live with war–war abroad has become an American staple. When the most war-like places in my country are the products not of warfare but of disregard for the downtrodden, of systemically racist policies, of corrupt police forces, of infrastructural neglect, what is it, exactly, that I’m supposed to see is the benefit of turning foreign nation after foreign nation into war zones for the meager cost of half our total national budget? The September 11th argument is coherent enough for me to understand: they attacked us in a way that managed to yield major destruction on our soil, so we brought the fight to them on their soil. Everything beyond that is an utter fucking wash.

We bomb hospitals, we bomb schools, we bomb weddings, we bomb funerals. There is nothing “smart” about our military policy abroad, only brute force limited by what is politically expeditious domestically. If another ground war in the Middle East so soon after the quagmire of Iraq hadn’t been a public policy polling disaster, do you really think Barack Obama would have disregarded the “red line” he set regarding the use of chemical weapons by Syria? Do you think he would have disregarded the Russian invasion of Crimea? Do you think he would have withheld ground troops from Libya? After all, what is achieved solely with air forces–aside from near-invulnerability to losses among American servicemen and women–that cannot be achieved more effectively with a combination of every available branch of the military? Surely, if anything, when raining down bombs on an area with little-to-no support on the ground, precision is lost, not gained. The argument need not be considered hypothetically; the hospitals, schools, weddings and funerals I alluded to are very real and very routine casualties of a war strategy not particularly far removed from the carpet bombings of Vietnam and the shock and awe policy of both Gulf Wars.

Yet I’m told over and over again that this is a policy of “smart power.” That Obama, like the Democratic Party Christ and savior Kennedy before him (who even died for our sins), has carefully balanced a serving tray of feuding nations that pose potentially-unspeakable threats to the United States atop his greying head. But the world is no longer divided into atomic-faring capitalist and communist superpowers squaring off from across clearly-drawn battle lines like it was in the days of Kennedy, and, you might remember, in the days of Kennedy, the foreign policy was pretty shitty anyway. So what is it, exactly, that compels us into these wars for supposedly only the most just of reasons? What vested interest, purely in service of national self-determination and not rooted in resource manipulation, did we have in the outcome of the Libyan conflict? What existential American crisis is served by our increasing entrance into Syria? I hear a lot of discussion about civilians and the terrible things being done to them in these countries, but why does this argument not apply to Africa? Do Americans have some affinity for Arabs that they don’t for Africans? I think not. Americans couldn’t give less of a shit about either. So what, aside from the presence of oil, the accompanying first-world-level economies, and the also-accompanying top-tier military programs (largely funded by ourselves or our associated superpowers), compels us toward the Middle East? What are the honest intentions that cause us to fix our eyes on the Middle East with such determination? Russia’s footholds there are not really any less tenuous than they were while they were at war in Afghanistan three decades ago. ISIS did not have tangible ambitions against the United States until we re-inserted ourselves into Iraq to stem their advances. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, our most stalwart supposed-ally in the region, is not only one of the most vicious and autocratic regimes in the world, they are increasingly appearing to have had a heavier hand in the attacks of September 11th than anyone else.

For what rhyme or reason? Why do we ally with Saudi Arabia? Why do we fight in Iraq? Why do we enforce no-fly zones in Libya and Syria? If we are pure-hearted in our intentions, why not Nigeria? Why not Chad? Why not Somalia? Why not Sudan? You’ll find no raison d’être for our labyrinthine foreign policy in this final paragraph. After fifteen years of looking, I still can’t find one. By all appearances–and judging from the results, the general lack of progress, and the ill-explained adventurism–there is none. Not if you take the idea of gold-hearted American foreign policy at face value. But, after fifteen years, one thing is clear to me: I can rationalize every bomb dropped, every bullet fired, every life lost, when viewed through the lens of corporatism and an increasingly-oligarchic and disingenuous American state. I must not be loving America hard enough.